Walk before you try to run
- Gathering information that you can meaningfully use (you need enough data, but conversely you don’t want to drown in it)
- Correctly interpreting what the heatmaps tell you, so you can make the right decisions.
Therefore, don’t rush it. Build your understanding in layers, moving on only when you’ve mastered each level. If you try to look at your whole website at once, for example, you’ll soon feel overwhelmed. Start with a page you know well, and that matters to you, and that gets enough traffic to generate a meaningful heatmap. How about the product page for your best-seller?
Get everyone talking to each other. Don’t let heatmapping be a tool that just one team gets to use; you need buy-in from everyone whose work feeds into or out of your website. Furthermore, you need everyone’s insights, ideas and interpretations. So make sure your marketing, planning, user experience (UX), development, testing and support teams are all up to speed with heatmapping and what it can do for you.
Start with what you already know or suspect
Do you already have some ideas about what might be affecting your conversions? You could plan to begin by testing some simple hypotheses. For example, your sales figures, customer contact centre, live chat service and website feedback forms can provide invaluable information from your own users. Are your sales on mobile devices at the level they should be? Are your support calls flagging up some common issues? Are users asking for a feature that is already on the site – but they just haven’t seen it?
Understand how users arrive, journey and depart
Use a tool like Google Analytics to familiarize yourself with the key landing pages on your site. Relatively few people will see your homepage first, so what are the main pages that users land on first, and why? What are the pages most users leave from… and what pages are they seeing most commonly in-between? Are these the kind of journeys you want them to be making, or are users doing something else entirely?
While you’re doing this, have a look at your bounce rates, essentially you’re looking for those users who land on one of your pages, don’t do much, and then exit your site without visiting any other pages. Not only do you want people to engage more with your site, but high bounce rates can be detrimental to your search rankings.
Identify some conversion funnels
If you aren’t already conversant with conversion funnels, analytics can help you to identify the paths which users take to travel through your site. You can track them from arrival on your site until they reach key moments – such as completing a form, making a sale, or providing an email address. From the moment they land on your site to the moment they complete your goal, find out which pages users visit, and what steps they need to take to reach that goal. Now you have a conversion funnel.
Think about what a good conversion funnel looks like
For each page in your chosen conversion funnel, decide on your ideal scenario:
Where does the page sit in the funnel – where should users have come from, and where do you want them to go next?
How important is each page in the funnel to the attainment of your goal?
What is its order of priority within the funnel?
What do you want the page to achieve?
Are you more concerned with the page conveying information, or appealing to the emotions?
What do you want users to do while they’re on the page?
What are the essential interactions?
Where do you want them to click – and which is the most important click on the page?
How likely are users to escape the funnel from this page?
What sort of content or problems could potentially cause users to exit from this page?
Produce a heatmap
Start by producing a heatmap for the last page, or stage, right at the end of your chosen funnel. This is where drop-out is most worrisome and needs the most attention; after all, the user has shown commitment to get there, so you really don’t want to lose them at the last moment! A click heatmap might be a good one to start with, as it gives some very immediate information.
After you’ve made some improvements to the end of your funnel, allow a sensible period of time to elapse and then run the same heatmap to see whether things have improved.
Then start making your way up to the top of your funnel, page by page, identifying and resolving problems as you go. Remove all the blockages you can, and ‘wax’ the inside of the funnel – so users can slide through it (and not out of it) as quickly and painlessly as possible!
Once you’ve corrected the most obvious problems on each page in the funnel, you can keep revisiting the same pages to identify and spot lesser or emerging problems. Continually fine-tune the user journey, straightening your funnel so that the number of users successfully making it to the end is always edging a little closer to the number who began the journey.
Grow in confidence
As you become more comfortable with heatmapping, you can start to:
- Interpret quirky user behavior
- Add filters and segmenting
- Use other types of heatmap for the funnel you’re already working on
- Work on more funnels
- Try out some multivariate (A/B testing), using heatmaps to compare the user experience with each variant.